Lemon Tree Writers’ member, Roger Meachem chooses:
I discovered John Irvine in the mid 80’s when I read ‘Cider House Rules’. I went on to read a half dozen more of his books, but have kept Cider House Rules as one of a small library of Fire-Books: – books I will strive to rescue from my house should it catch fire. Why this book rather than his Owen Meany, or Hotel New Hampshire? To tell the truth, not being a book critic it’s hard to say, but I know that when I think of Cider House Rules so many of the characters are memorable. This book is full of distinct and memorable people. Mary Agnes, a girl you wouldn’t wish to cross, who destroys a building when she’s annoyed. In one of the sub plots we follow Mary who is searching for Homer Wells – the book’s main character – and who Mary believes has jilted her! Dr Larch runs the orphanage but also, and illegally, helps women who need abortions. Candy is a girl who has everything, but also has two men who love her deeply – Homer and his best frend Wally the son of the owner of a commercial Apple Orchard. There’s Mr Rose, who manages an apple-picking team and is the book’s male equivalent of Mary Agnes. All this is set in Maine, beginning in the backwoods orphanage and continuing into the coastal orchards. In this book you’ll find stark tragedy and the most romantic love, but all set within Irvine’s world – and John Irvine creates a grimly mocking world spiced with some grisly humour.
One example: We follow Homer from his birth. Before he’s ten-years-old he is failed by several prospective families. It’s what happens (fatally) to the final couple that decides Dr Larch that perhaps The Maine population might be safer if Homer stays in the orphanage.
If I had to choose just one reason why I love Cider House Rules? There are pages in the book where I have to stop reading and leave the book lying for an hour or more. It’s just too moving to be read quickly.